PAWLING, BENJAMIN, army and militia officer, farmer, office holder, judge, politician, printer, and publisher; b. c. 1749 in Philadelphia, Pa; m. Susan –, and they had six children; d. in Grantham Township, Upper Canada, and was buried 16 Dec. 1818.
The facts of Benjamin Pawling’s early life are obscure. His parents had emigrated probably from Wales and settled a Philadelphia. After the outbreak of the American revolution their lands were confiscated and Pawling and his brother Jesse made their way to Quebec where they joined the British forces in 1777. Pawling served for seven years before being retired on half pay on 25 Jan. 1784 as a captain in John Butler*’s rangers. is brother also served with the rangers as quartermaster. Contemporary records of the unit list Pawling’s occupation as “farmer” and his brother’s as “private gentleman.”
Although appearing on a list of loyalists who were at Detroit (Mich.) in September 1784, Pawling is known to have settled in the Niagara region as early as 1783 and indeed by that date had cleared eight acres of land. As a loyalist captain he received 3,000 acres and settled on a lot in Grantham Township on the Lake Ontario front near Twelve Mile Creek. Four years later Pawling had cleared 16 acres and sown 10 with wheat. He was as yet unmarried and the sole occupant of his land. An indication of his local prominence is the fact that he was one of several recommended on 27 Dec. 1787 by Sir John Johnson* for “civil trusts” in the proposed new administrative districts.
When the Nassa District was proclaimed in July 1788 Pawling became one of its leading local officials. Along with Butler, Robert Hamilton, Nathaniel Pettit, and later John Warren, he served on the land board of the Nassa District, and subsequently on its successor, the land board of Lincoln County. He was a justice of the peace from 19 Jan. 1789 for Nassau and later for the Home and Niagara districts; his last commission as a justice was 17 May 1814. With Pettit, Pawling was named to the Court of Common Pleas on 24 Oct. 1788, joining Butler and Hamilton. The primary concerns of the land board and the court were land title and the settlement of debt, and a loyalist officer such as Pawling showed less inclination than a merchant like Hamilton to attend to these matters. Of 36 sessions of the land board between 26 Oct. 1789 and March 1792, Pawling attended 3. His attendance at the court was only marginally better: 4 of 23 sessions between 28 Oct. 1788 and 10 April 1794. Yet in 1793 he petitioned Lieutenant Governor John Graves Simcoe to relieve him “from the weight of his public occupations,” which encroached upon “the management of his own private concerns.” This letter is the earliest evidence that Pawling had married and possibly had children. It is not known what effect the petition had but the abolition of the court and the county land boards in 1794 must have relieved some of his anxiety. On 19 Oct. 1797 he was appointed to the first Heir and Devisee Commission for the Home District with Hamilton, Pettit, and Warren. But again his interest was negligible. Records are available only for the seven sessions between 1 Oct. 1800 and 15 Sept. 1803, none of which Pawling attended.
In 1792 Pawling was elected to the House of Assembly for the 2nd riding of Lincoln, defeating the merchant, Samuel Street, 148 votes to 48. Records for the early assemblies are scarce and it is not known how active a member Pawling was. In 1794 he was commissioned a major in the Lincoln militia. He resigned prior to 1806 and does not appear to have participated in the War of 1812.
On 3 Dec. 1818 the name Pawling appeared with that of Bartemas Ferguson* below the mast-head of the Niagara Spectator as printers and publishers. Secondary sources identify this Pawling as Benjamin, although he may have been Benjamin’s nephew, the local deputy sheriff, Peter Ten Broeck Pawling. The partnership did not last long. The last issue to bear both names was 4 Feb. 1819. But the first issue to use these names was sufficient to engage Pawling the publisher in the controversy surrounding Robert Fleming Gourlay*. Throughout 1818 Gourlay had carried on an agitation in the columns of the Spectator and the issue of 3 December carried his letter “Gagg’d-Gagg’d, by Jingo!” which led to charges of seditious libel against Pawling and Ferguson. On 16 December, the day that Benjamin Pawling, the subject of this biography, was buried, Isaac Swayze*, a local assemblyman, reported to Major George Hillier*, the lieutenant governor’s secretary, that Ferguson was “in close custidity” and Pawling was “held to bail for aperance at court, in the sum of £400 Currcy.” When the case came to trial the following August only Ferguson appeared. It would seem that Pawling the publisher was indeed the deceased Benjamin.
AO, RG 1, A-II-5, 1, Niagara District reports, 1800–3; C-I-9, 1; RG 22, ser.6–2, Lincoln County, will of Benjamin Pawling; ser.134, 4–5; RG 53, ser.2–2, 1: f.230. MTL, U.C., Court of Common Pleas, Nassau District, minutes. Norfolk Land Registry Office (Simcoe, Ont.), Abstract index to deeds, Windham Township: 821, 825, 829, 831, 835, 900, 903, 910 (mfm. at AO, GS 2640). PAC, MG 23, HI, 1, ser.8, 3: 71; RG 1, L3, 400: P1/43; 418: P misc., 1775–95/54; RG 5, AI: 1909–11, 2048–49; RG 68, General index, 1651–1841: ff.149, 249–50, 289–90, 292, 402–3, 408, 410, 418, 425. “Board of land office, District of Hesse,” AO Report, 1905: 132, 211. “District of Nassau: minutes and correspondence of the land board,” AO Report, 1905: 304. “Early records of Niagara” (Carnochan), OH, 3: 13–14, 18, 67, 71. [Francis Goring], “An early diary of Francis Goring,” Niagara Hist. Soc., [Pub.], 36 (1924): 63. Mich. Pioneer Coll., 11 (1887): 435–36, 451. “Records of Niagara, 1784–7,” ed. E. A. Cruikshank, Niagara Hist. Soc., [Pub.], 39 (n.d.): 119, 123. Statistical account of Upper Canada, compiled with a view to a grand system of emigration, comp. R. [F.] Gourlay (2v., London, 1822; repr. East Ardsley, Eng., and New York, 1966), 2: 439–40. Niagara Spectator (Niagara [Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ont.]), 3 Dec. 1818–4 Feb. 1819. Reid, Loyalists in Ont., 245. Wilson, “Enterprises of Robert Hamilton.”. E. (A.] Cruikshank, “Record of the services of Canadian regiments in the War of 1812; part IX: the Lincoln militia,” Canadian Military Institute, Selected Papers (Toronto), 13 (1903): 9–41; “Ten years of the colony of Niagara, 1780–1790,” Niagara Hist. Soc., [Pub.], 17 (1908). C. C. James, “The first legislators of Upper Canada,” RSC Trans., 2nd ser., 8 (1902), sect.ii: 93–119. “Loyalist and pioneer families of West Lincoln, 1783–1833,” comp. R. J. Powell, Annals of the Forty ([Grimsby, Ont.]), no.7 (1956).